Key players: Mesut Özil, the Arsenal star who has been struggling for form and, last March, with gay taunts; Miroslav Klöse, the near-record-breaking veteran who is the only official striker on team; and Real Madrid star Sami Khedira, who is seemingly recovered from a serious injury that saw him not at his best as recently as the Champions League Final. There are several other walking wounded on the final roster of this perennial favorite, clouding its gleaming prospects.
Bus slogan: ‘One Nation, One Team, One Dream!’ — This is alright, a little whatever. I’ve heard that it’s supposed to sound better in German, but just because it gets that ol’ World Cup Mannschaft chestnut chuckler into the mix.
Where to watch the World Cup: The numerous ‘fanmeilen’ (festivals with big screens) that were such a hit when Germany hosted the World Cup in 2006 will once again be returning, with the mothership ‘meilen’ at Berlin’s Brandenberg Gate, despite some controversy over late kick-off times. Bars and biergartens are also all-aboard, with some gartens importing sand to get the appropriate ‘carioca’ feel.
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Key players: Cristiano Ronaldo – CR7 would obviously like to build on his closing penalty goal of the Champions League Final and subsequent doffed-shirt bellow… will his supporting cast be up to the task? The friendly they just played with Greece without Ronaldo ended 0-0. There is some hope young dark horses William Carvahlo, Rafa Silva & Éder will conjure surprises though.
Bus slogan: ‘The Past Is History, The Future Is Victory’ — OK, this has a bit of a Rocky III ring to it, a little schlocky but with the proper mindset highly entertaining. CR7 as Apollo Creed. And these guys are not Brazil, even though they speak pretty much the same language.
Where to watch the World Cup: In Lisbon, Café Imperio near the Alameda metro stop is a popular recommendation, with music and a huge screen. Also in Lisbon, outdoor screens will likely be erected in the Praças de Rossio, Figuieras and Comercio, especially if Portugal escape the group stages.
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Key players: Asamoah Gyan, the veteran leader of a mostly veteran team, successful yet star-crossed in South Africa in 2010, hopes to erase those memories. Though veterans, the close-knit Black Stars are for the third World Cup in a row the youngest squad in the tournament, and feature one youngster particularly picked to shine in Brazil, midfielder Christian Atsu, who is owned by Chelsea but played last season at Dutch side Vitesse.
Bus slogan: ‘Black Stars: Here To Illuminate Brazil’ — Being a big fan of black light, this one has to be my favorite. Let’s hope they live up to the psychedelic promise, as opposed to the universe-sucking possibilities that could be put forth by astronomical literalists.
Where to watch the World Cup: A geographically ironic viewing locale would be Elmina, site of the castle built in 1482 by the Portuguese (the oldest still-standing European building south of the Sahara) which was used by several nations as a base of the slave trade. However the ‘Door of No Return’ and the rest of the beachfront site are now preserved by UNESCO, and resorts on all sides are promoting big screen showings of the World Cup tournament, our contemporary thrall.
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Key players: Even before the controversial omission of Landon Donovan by coach Jürgen Klinsmann, it was obvious that midfielder Michael Bradley was going to be the literal and figurative pivotal figure on this team. The young defense will have to be marshaled by veterans Tim Howard of EPL’s Everton, Geoff Cameron of EPL’s Stoke and German-born Jermaine Jones of Turkish side Besiktas. There is hope in a few wild cards: veteran captain Clint Dempsey; the new wearer of Donovan’s #10 and Robin Gibb look-alike Norwegian-born attacking midfielder Mix Diskerud; Kevin Bacon look-alike striker Aron Johansson; and wildest card of them all, half-Cherokee long-time outsider San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski.
Bus slogan: ‘United By Team, Driven By Passion’ — This unfortunately sounds like a combination of a cereal and Chrysler Cordoba commercials.
Where to watch the World Cup: This could likely be a piece in itself, but the East Coast will have the sweetest happy hour kick-off times. New York City, D.C. and Florida (where many of the national teams are presently warming up) should be hopping. Vegas I mentioned earlier, also Los Angeles. I plan on hitting a newly-opened Brazilian beer garden down the street from me in Berkeley.
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